The dissertation is part of the international ICLE project (International Corpus of Learner English), the aim of which is to describe what is characteristic for the written English of advanced learners. The material, a so-called corpus, with data from different groups of learners, e.g. the Swedish part SWICLE, facilitates quantitative research in the form of overuse, and underuse – a relatively new research field. An informant survey was conducted for the qualitative part of the research.
Phrasal verbs occur in both Swedish and English. However, this does not mean that the combinations of verb and particle are the same. For example, the Swedish phrasal verb ‘lock up’ corresponds to the verb unlock in English and the simple verb ‘lock’ to the phrasal verb lock up. Furthermore, Swedish does not have the same possibilities as English to use more formal synonyms, often of Latin origin. Some examples are go down – descend, take off – remove and put out – extinguish.
Mondor’s study reveals three principal differences between Swedish learners and native speakers: Firstly, learners do not vary their usage to the same extent. They seem to prefer high-frequency phrasal verbs with a limited number of meanings, preferably with a Swedish equivalent, e.g. give up, sit down and wake up. Secondly, the dissertation shows that learners often break the rules for how verbs and particles can be combined. Some errors are more serious – such as when *people melt in in the sense that they do not distinguish themself in a group instead of blend in – but most of them are of a more stylistic character – such as in *take up Swedish traditions instead of adopt traditions.
The informant survey made it possible to describe the errors on a scale from perfectly natural to wholly unnatural. The study shows that the learners have particular difficulties with phrasal verbs that have idiomatic meanings, which can lead to their language not sounding English. Moreover, learners are not sufficiently aware of differences between speech and writing. A common explanation for the errors is transfer from the Swedish, as in the combination *melt in (‘smälta in’). On many occasions a similar English combination might have been used as a pattern (e.g. blend in). A third difference is that Swedish learners overuse the word order verb-particle-object as in bring up children in comparison with the word order bring children up. Learners are not aware of the large number of factors that together influence word order. Normally only the word order verb-particle-object is possible in Swedish (cf. ‘kasta ut soporna’ and ‘*kasta soporna ut’).
Title of the dissertation: Figuring it out: A corpus-based comparison of the verb-particle construction in argumentative writing by Swedish advanced learners and native speakers of English.